You are ready to buy a new car. You’d like to be more environmentally-friendly, but you have a long commute and an all-electric plug-in car will not do. So, it seems that your decision to go green is limited to a hybrid.
A hybrid is a car that runs on gasoline or electric depending on driving conditions. Some hybrids recharge by plugging into an electric socket and some recharge by engaging the gasoline engine, which powers the car and recharges the battery.
Wait! – Have you even thought about the benefits of a diesel engine over a hybrid?
Hybrid or Diesel? For Mileage, It Depends
Both popular diesel and popular hybrid cars manage about the same fuel economy, around 43 miles per gallon. But the real consideration is not what you drive, but where you drive. In city driving, there is no doubt that hybrids are superior to diesels. However, on the highway, diesels certainly have the advantage of better mileage.
Consider that as weight increases, the performance of hybrids decreases. This is why German carmakers prefer the diesel engines in their luxury sedans. They (the Germans) don't sacrifice mileage or power as diesel fuel has more energy packed in a gallon than gasoline does.
A diesel car engine has a battery that is nearly identical to a gasoline-powered car. They last a reasonably long time and are relatively cheap to replace. It’s a job most car owners can do themselves. Or take the car to a parts store like Autozone and they will replace the battery for you, free of charge.
Hybrids are another story. Of all the major components in the hybrid, the battery life is considerably shorter than everything else. Additionally, the cost of exchanging a battery is considerable; many times more than a standard car battery. At resale, this means a lower resale value for your hybrid.
Today's diesel cars are quiet, powerful, and fun to drive. Take a test drive in a VW Golf TDI diesel and a Honda Insight hybrid to see for yourself. The VW is fun to drive - floor it and it takes off. Contrast this to when you floor the Insight, and it casually glides to a higher speed.
Hybrids are also more complicated mechanical and electrical systems compared to diesel technology. The issue of environmental friendliness is also open. There is no doubt that hybrids are cleaner than gas-only cars and they also run cleaner than ordinary diesel engines. But, diesel engines can run on bio-diesel blends with no changes necessary – certainly, that closes the “clean” gap.
This post was published on June 20, 2014 and was updated on January 22, 2016.